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Take the following passage in an English translation of Solzhenitsyn's novel Cancer Ward:

Beethoven's four muffled chords of fate were thundering above Kostoglotov's head. Nobody heard them in the ward, perhaps they never would.

Which work of Beethoven's is this referring to?

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Most likely the opening four notes in the Fifth Symphony: http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2012/11/19/165495617/beethovens-famous-4-notes-truly-revolutionary-music.

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    Wikipedia's intro on the Fate motif: The initial motif of the symphony has sometimes been credited with symbolic significance as a representation of Fate knocking at the door. This idea comes from Beethoven's secretary and factotum Anton Schindler, who wrote, many years after Beethoven's death: The composer himself provided the key to these depths when one day, in this author's presence, he pointed to the beginning of the first movement and expressed in these words the fundamental idea of his work: "Thus Fate knocks at the door!"
    – user4354
    Jun 29 '17 at 2:56

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